Posts Tagged ‘reading’

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

We were able to start work today because Don of Peninsula Plumbing got our leak fixed in quick time.  It had been caused by the way the new washing machine had been hooked up. That was careless of the washing machine deliverers and hooker uppers.

As always, we began the work year in:

Long Beach, Fifth Street Park

The very minute that I got out of the van, my back went SPROING.  I took two Doan’s Back Pills and stood against the nearest building to straighten up fully; fortunately, I was not out for the count.

NW quadrant, before, with a guy eating lunch and the first cute dog of the work year.

I mostly did the SW section, although Allan cut the big grass and helped out toward the end.

4.5 hours later



I very much want to get the hesperantha (formerly schizostylis) kept to just one area instead of running all through the garden.  It has gone rampant because of our mild winter and was tedious and frustrating to (try to) eliminate from the main part of the border, which is also infested with wild garlic.  Will this be the year I finally get it under control again?

Deer have been visiting this garden.

deer poop on the garden cut-through sidewalk

A woman came and chatted as I worked about how she can now only garden in window boxes, after fifty years of gardening.  I suggested she get someone to bring her a picnic table and bench and then plant up a tabletop landscape.  I recommended this book:

She liked the idea.

She told me for awhile about how the healing power of the earth was coming up through the soil to fix my knee and how a certain pink stone which I could purchase right next door at Marsh’s Free Museum would solve my physical problems.  I finally expressed my skepticism.

Meanwhile, Allan was working on the SW quadrant.



after (Allan’s photos)

This small corner area in the SW quadrant is so damp that I do let the hesperantha reign freely there, except that I like to thin it hard in springtime.

before, Allan’s photo

The problem with so much hesperantha needing pulling and the Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ needing clipping is that two precious clumps of camassia got clipped, too.

after, with me brooding over the camassias.

Thursday, 8 February 2018

With every intention of working, Allan hooked up the trailer.  I put the kibosh on work when I went outside and felt the cold and dreary drizzle.

As I sat reading, a knock at the door produced a member of the Ilwaco city crew.  He had come to tell us about his upcoming repair job on the ramp railing at the community building, and that he would have to move a clump of bulbs.  I wish all workers were as thoughtful!  As it happened, Allan and I were going there that day, Allan to the library and me to sort out my shingles hospital bill, so we told him we would move the clump of bulbs.

He had left a stake to show us where. (Allan’s photo)

iris reticulata and crocuses at the community building

I did get the bill sorted, in that the hospital will re-bill it with my insurance card, and I learned it had been over-billed, so it will now “only” cost me $200 (instead of $450) for a brusque 15 minute urgent care shingles visit and a lab test.

in the lobby of the hospital

With that done, I could enjoy an afternoon and evening of finishing a book, one which I had been reading in the late evenings for two nights before.

Not long ago, I read Kitty Burns Florey’s book about sentence diagramming and more, Sister Bernadette’s Barking Dog.  In it, I had learned of the diaries of Dawn Powell, a novelist of the 1930s-60s.

Today I immersed myself and finished to the end.

Here are just a few favourite bits of Dawn Powell from my happy return to the staycation mode.

About her nervousness and phobias:

This passage about the death of her darling cat had me in tears over my Smoky; her experience was so much like mine, except that we did not let Smoky die at home.

She did get another cat, because years later she writes while traveling of “a feeling of homesickness for my cat.

Here is a valuable thought, if you have ever wondered WHY in the world you had been friends with someone who turned out to be just mean:

“I wonder again how we could ever have been friends, although friends are like food—one’s palate and capacity and preference changes with education, travel, ulcers, and better opportunities for choosing.”

About censorship of books, which spoke to me because of my parents forbidding me, as a teenager, to be allowed to read books from the adult section of the LIBRARY (!!):

On solitude, in which she longs for five hours of it a day:

Decades later, she had upped it to eight to twelve hours a day.  I get the same craving.  Fortunately, Allan and I rub along pretty quietly together at home.  During staycation, I crave not just twelve hours but two weeks (dare I confess to wanting even more) of solitude from everyone but Allan.

I think one of my happiest winters was one of complete solitude, on my own in my cold little house behind the boatyard, reading in front of the single source of heat, a glowing space heater.

Dawn Powell wrote diary entries for many years about ideas for a book that never came to fruition, about a world where cats were in charge and humans were the pets:

Years later, still thinking about “Yow”:

She was ahead of her time for the second wave of feminism; this was written in 1952:

On aging:

She died in 1965, not even making to 70.  I felt bereft when I came to the end of the diaries.  I still have novels of hers, and a biography to read.

Having dipped back into one bookish day, I was told by the weather forecast that we would be back to work tomorrow.




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reading in 1992

Reading and life in 1992

I began the year reading a lot of young adult fiction, looking back to books and authors I had liked.  Why Not Join The Giraffes? was a book I’d liked in school (probably because it was about a youthful rock band). I had a new Anne McCaffrey Dragonriders book, and had to read it, having had years invested even though I was tired of the series.

As usual, I can’t comment on books I’ve forgotten; my bad memory does not mean they weren’t good.  I usually give them three out of five stars on Goodreads just to be nice.  (Giving a rating gets me into the “add a date read” page.)  A lot of the books I read were obscure enough to not be in Goodreads.  The site will let you add a book that isn’t there.  If you can’t find a book on Goodreads, find it on Amazon or elsewhere and snag the ISBN or ASIN number and put that in the Goodreads search box.  Hint: If all you wrote down in your old booklist is the title Shoulders, with no author, you and the book are out of luck.)

I read 27 books just in January, with a lot of them being easy reading.

Below: I read a couple of books by K.M. Peyton, who had written the excellent Pennington series that I had read in 1988.  Of favourite authors, I read a Miss Read and a Fay Weldon.

I read What to Expect…, as we were expecting a baby in mid June.  I did not know how we were going to manage.  I could not picture Robert being the sole breadwinner.  He was working with me on my cleaning jobs, and some clients were hiring him for his handyman skills.  I imagined us carrying a baby to our housecleaning jobs and wondered how that would work out.  (My clients doted on us….but still.)

The not fully titled book below is The Girl Who Got All the Breaks and was one of those books so obscure that Gooreads has nought to say about it.  Feral (about dangerous cats) got such bad reviews that I am assuming I did not like it.

Finding a new-to-me Miss Read, especially in the Thrush Green series, made me happy.

Below: The Small Mosaics of Mr. and Mrs. Engel was starred in my book list as one I quite liked.  It is a British novel so obscure I had to add it to Goodreads and all I know about it is that I liked it.

Ghosts I Have Been is a young adult novel that I strongly remember liking. Museum Pieces got stars on my list, but I cannot remember it. Goodreads tells me it is about a marriage ending and is set in Santa Fe. So many of these books that I would like to reread are not in the library catalog.


I did not care if my child was perfect, but I had to read Miss Manners’ Guide to Raising Perfect Children because I love her.  “The precocious child will abscond with it when his elders nod off, and master the information for his or her own purposes.

Something in the Wind is apparently an obscure Lee Smith book.  I’ve never read a book of hers that I did not love.  The Garden is Doing Fine is a good young adult or children’s book about a girl dealing with the impending death of her father.

When Hello Means Goodbye is the definitive book to give to someone who has suffered pregnancy loss.


In February, I had an amnio; we already knew from ultrasound that our impending child was a boy, and had decided to call him Devon.  The amnio was something I was pressured to do because I was 36.  That night, I was tired, but Robert and I were going over to Chris (my wasband’s) house for dinner.  I should have cancelled.  No one warned me to rest.  I had been told that amnios cause a miscarriage  2% of the time.  That seemed so small to me; it could not mean it would happen to me.

Not only was I tired, but when we had dinner with Chris, he told us in a rather delighted way (because of the intrigue, I guess) that Heartbreaker P from ’87 and his girlfriend of one year were buying a house just seven houses up the street from my house.  This gave me a sleepless night, and to this day I connect that with the miscarriage I had two days later at 18 weeks (after twodays in bed with a fever, trying to get better). I had the lousiest of medical care because my medical insurance did not include maternity, as was common back then.

Robert and I went to Tower Books, where my good friend Chris D worked (a different Chris, who had given me the wonderful John Hassler books and who was a voracious reader).  I asked him to please find me everything he could about miscarriages, and he did, and I bought them all and read them one after another.  Going to work was painful and exhausting but I had to do it.  As soon as the day was done, I retreated to hot baths, bed, and books.

To this day, I am anxious every time I know someone who is pregnant until that baby is produced safely.  When someone offers me their new baby to hold, I decline because I fear the emotion.  I have an envious feeling about people who are in an economic position to have a baby without worrying about how they will care for it. And I am well aware of how old Devon would be.

The screenshots of book covers are in reverse order of reading.

The book without a cover image is Yesterday I Dreamed of Dreams: Poems, Letters, and Memorials Written by Parents for Babies They Love by Mollie A. Minnick.  What a beautiful title. The book with an incomplete title is  The Other Side of Pregnancy: Coping with Miscarriage and Stillbirth by Sherry Lynn Mims Jiminez.

I read the poignant AIDS memoir Borrowed Time in the midst of the other books.  It is still in my home library.

Thank goodness for the relief of the hilarious gay novel Eighty-Sixed.

The hospital midwife came visit us on her own time. She told us that in her opinion the amnio caused the miscarriage, even though the hospital would, she said, never admit to that. She entered us into a miscarriage study in which one half of the people would get three sessions of counseling and one half not.  A year later, we had a follow up questionnaire and later on we learned that the counseling helped…Of course it did!

Robert and I got married in a small ceremony in March, inspired by the scare of my being in poor health.

Robert, me, minister Dee Dee Rainbow, Tom and Barbara from Eugene, and Wilum; Bryan took the photo.

You can read more of my story about that time in this blog post, including some more photos from the wedding and the tale of briefly being in a band.

Still to Be Born and In Search of Parenthood reflect a brief quest that came to nothing.

A new Ruth Rendell and a new Barbara Vine (also Ruth Rendell) in one month gave much happiness.

I discovered Linda Barnes’ Carlotta Carlyle mysteries, which became favourites later on.  I still did not like Sara Peretsky.  I always liked a Fay Weldon. The Buddha of Surbubia got my highest stars for the year.  My best discovery was Beverly Nichols.  Although I read Down the Garden Path, it would be awhile before I went on a reading spree of his books.

Above: a new Lee Smith, some old Madeleine L’Engles ,Spontaneous Combustion (a sequel to Eighty-Sixed), and two excellent feminist books. I never read a bad book by Scott Spencer. Among the Thugs was about soccer hooligans in the UK.  I read two books about Sid and Nancy, one being a memoir by Nancy Spungeon’s mother. George Schenk’s Gardening With Friends is a memoir that I strongly recommend.

Above: a new book Margaret Drabble, The Gates of Ivory.  She is one of my top favourites.  People of the Lie is by the author of The Road Less Traveled and is about why people do evil.

Sandra Scoppetone wrote two groundbreaking gay young adult novels that I still own.  I read Everything You have Is Mine, one of her excellent mystery series.

Out Here was a funny memoir about the Pacific Northwest, and I still own it.

Alexandra Stoddard’s Living a Beautiful Life is the first Martha Stewarty thing I ever read. But for the next many years, we would be living in semi-squalor at the beach. In October, Robert and I went on a trip to the Long Beach Peninsula, supposedly for two weeks.  We stayed at the Sou’wester for a month and decided to move there.  You can see photos from that trip here.

Keeping Up Appearances by Rose McAuley is another book that is still on my shelves.  Any book that made the cut when I moved to the beach had to be good.

Below: I read the time travel romance, Wings of the Storm, because the author was the friend of friends.  If I were her, I’d be mad, because it sounds an awful lot like those awful Diana Gabaldon books used her same plot but with much more creepy sexual violence. (To be fair, I only read the first Gabaldon and threw it across the room in disgust at one point.)

I don’t remember Bones.  It is by an author whose book The Blue Chair is one of my all time favourites.

I read a gardening book that I still own, Color in My Garden, and closed the year with five Miss Reads.






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reading in 1991

reading and life in 1991

I started my 1991 reading with Dalva, an excellent book that had been a Christmas gift from a fellow I had been seeing at the end of 1990.

I was also hanging around a lot with Bryan, who had become single again.  Very early in 91, when he had started lifting weights with me at the gym, I asked him if perchance he wanted to get back together.  Having read way too much Georgette Heyer, he said no, that he was looking to be “madly in love”.  I felt then that I would have been happy to have a lifelong relationship with this dear friend who read a lot, but it was not to be.

In January of ’91 I spent some time with an anti-war enclave at the downtown Federal Building.  I wrote three posts about, starting here.  Not only was the issue important to me, but that is where I met Robert, who would be my life and work partner for the next 12 1/2 years.

Robert at the Federal Building, January

Pretty soon I was madly in love again.  Robert was not a reader.  However, he liked to spend hours practicing his guitar, so my reading time was not curtailed.  This was still a lower reading year for me than usual.  For some reason, in February the only book I read was Dale Carnegie’s How to Stop Worrying…I don’t think it helped.

My favourite book of the year, based on the number of stars next to it on my book list, was The Remains of the Day. I discovered Andrew Vachss.  I remember finding his books a hard slog.  I liked the scenes set in the Chinese restaurant with hot and sour soup.

I continued to read the Celia Thaxter gardening mysteries by John Sherwood.  The Art of Planting by Rosemary Verey and Designing with Perennials by Pamela Harper are inspirational gardening books that I still own.  You can see photos of my Seattle garden in 1991 here.

The screenshot are in reverse order.  You can click on them to biggify the covers.

I was still reading some young adult fiction.  A friend who I had met in 1987 gave me the two John Hassler books.  They are wonderful, and I want to read more by him.

I read Budding Prospects in memory of living with a pot farmer in the 80s.

A new Joseph Hansen, featuring his groundbreaking gay detective Dave Brandstetter, was a treat, as was a new Sue Grafton and Ann Tyler.

I remember that the fantasy novel Expecting Someone Taller (a genre I hardly ever read any more; it had been recommended by the same friend who gave me Jon Hassler’s books) was funny.

In June, Robert and I were involved in a project for the homeless.

Robert and I at the Operation Homestead site.

We took a lot of van camping trips during the year in the old VW van that we had bought: to the Olympic Peninsula coast, to the Oregon Coast, where I fell in love with the Sylvia Beach Hotel, and to the Long Beach Peninsula in summer, where I fell madly in love with a place.

In October, we returned to the Sylvia Beach Hotel and I wrote on my book list that I had read a lot of room journals.

Books: Writing Down the Bones helped me think more about writing. I tried another Edna O’ Brien and was still not thrilled.  I read The Grain of Truth, Three on the Run, and Carrie’s War, a children’s book about WWII, by Nina Bawden  and a new psychological suspense by another favourite, Ian McEwan.  I had read and loved Elizabeth Jane Howard’s Odd Girl Out in the 70s. I read her After Julius but still did not start a reading spree of all her books.

I must have been trying to self-improve by reading about the magic of believing in yourself.

We revisited the Long Beach Peninsula on the way home from the Sylvia Beach, staying at Klipsan Beach Cottages and the Sou’wester.  I walked the beach every day and bought Beachcombing the Pacific.  

While at the beach, Robert and I made an offer on a house in Ocean Park.  It had an apartment over the garage, we thought we could rent it out and have a place to stay at the beach and we could move there full time as soon as we could find work.  The house was only $35K, which was normal back then.  The deal fell through because the seller went out on his boat, had not signed a piece of the paperwork, and had second thoughts while he was fishing.

Back in Seattle, I found out I was pregnant.  This changed the idea of moving to the beach; I wanted to bring a child up in a more diverse social environment.  Carol moved out; Wilum said he would stay and be an uncle.  We made a Thanksgiving trip to the Sou’wester.  It was poignant now that we knew we could not move.

I needed some light reading so indulged in a Phyllis A Whitney spree. I read and liked the famous romance novel, Forever Amber, and one of P.G. Wodehouse’s humorous mysteries and a couple of good young adult novels.  A new Dick Francis and a new Robert Campbell and a new John Bellairs made me happy. As usual, I have nothing to add about books I have completely forgotten.


I thought at the time that the novel In Shelly’s Leg would be about the gay bar in Seattle by that name, famously opened with the insurance settlement money when Shelly lost her leg.  It was about a bar, but not that one.  Weetzie Bat is adorable.

I finished the year with some mysteries and some books about having babies.  I had never had a strong maternal urge and yet I had talked to both Bryan and Chris about having a baby.  Bryan did not want to; he said he must not add to population growth.  Chris was so adamant about it that he said he would file for divorce if I got pregnant and decided to have the child.  (!!!)  Let me just add that when we were all around fifty (each of them were two years older than I), both of those guys became parents and both had the nerve to tell me that having a baby was the best thing that ever happened to them.  In both cases, that statement ended our friendships (which at the time was still close with Bryan and distant with Chris).  Someone (not me) should write a book about that.  If you know of one, let me know.

Robert and I had talked about it, too, and he was fine with the idea but we had hoped to wait just a little longer.  On the other hand, I was 36 so ….

I re-read some of my favourite children’s books that had belonged to my mother: The Meriweather Girls series and one of the Campfire Girls series and imagined sharing them with a third generation.

My last book of 1990 was Civil Wars, to which I gave a star, and which I learned today is about a Civil Rights couple raising the children of segregationists.  That sounds worth re-reading.



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reading in 1990

Reading in 1990

I started the year with a Miss Read and with a new Armistead Maupin. My reading radically decreased this year, and I don’t remember why. In June and September, I only read one book.  How could that be? What was I doing?

I gave such a high number of stars to Moving House that I am going to re-read it.  Lois Duncan is a favourite writer of young adult suspense novels.  I enjoyed the novelization of my favourite show of the time, Beauty and the Beast.

I discovered Dorothy Gilman’s Mrs. Pollifax mystery series.  I read many of them this year.  In later years, I began to find them tedious, and they are one of the author collections that I did not keep.  However, I loved her memoir that I read years later.

In February, I went to my first big Northwest Flower and Garden Show.  I think I had attended a Seattle garden show in an earlier year, when it was much smaller.  I was still feeling great exhilaration at being single, even when taking the bus to work.  But on the day that I took the bus to the garden show, the bus was late because of snow.  I got to the show’s seminar room just as the doors were closing for a lecture by famed English gardener Rosemary Verey.  I begged and implored and was even misty eyed, and the door guard let me go in and stand in the back.  Seeing Verey speak was transformative, as were all the other wonderful speakers that the garden show used to bring.

I hope that next winter’s staycation project will be to write up all the notes I have taken at gardening lectures over the years.

My friend Hilary made a brief visit to the show to walk around the display gardens with me.  I had met her at my gym the previous year and we were close friends.  She had been friends with Chris, as well, and had encouraged me mightily to become single again.


I still have the poster.

She and I went out to delicious restaurant meals and went dancing maybe once a week.  I just don’t think that is the explanation for my lack of reading.

Hilary, a fashion icon, kept trying to make me over. She was so funny that I let her get away with it.

In the early spring, Allan visited me with his daughter.

Pearl, with Valene.

Heartbreaker P had taken on a bar near downtown Seattle.  (He would become famous in some circles, which is why I don’t put his name.) He gave me the mirrors that had been behind the bar, and Bryan helped me affix them to the inside of my fence.  When I walked onto my back porch the next morning, I thought the fence had fallen down.

Sparks mirrors and roses


My housemate, Wilum, and Hilary. We were about to go out dancing at P’s new bar.

In June, the only book I read was not-Mrs-Pollifax The Tightrope Walker by Dorothy Gilman.  What was I doing with my time?  I suspect that because I was now obsessed with gardening I gardened till dark after cleaning jobs and the gym.

(The books in the screen shot are in reverse order.  Before Dorothy Gilman, I had a new Kinsey Milhone and  Barbara Vine (Ruth Rendell’s nom de plume for her darker stories) and some more Miss Read.

I read my first Laurie Colwin, Happy all the Time.  That did not start the Colwin reading spree that would come later in life.

I re-read It Ends with Revelations by Dodie Smith.  I love her for I Capture the Castle; her biggest fame is from writing The 101 Dalmations.

In the summer, Barbara came to visit me.  I love this photo.  We both agreed that it would have been better if she were reading something with a milder title than A Taste for Death.

Barbara’s photo of me

My garden was becoming amazing.


In the summer, Carol moved in with me and Wilum and we enjoyed a happy and peaceful household.  I’d think that maybe pleasant socializing kept me from reading more, but I recall that Carol, an avid reader, read for hours in the living room.

Carrie Fisher’s Surrender the Pink was good, and I went on with Georgette Heyer mysteries, a new Tony Hillerman, a new Ruth Rendell, and other random mysteries.  I liked Freaks Amour; when I read the description on Goodreads, it sounds awfully grim.  Three gardening books, In Search of Lost Roses and The Perennial Gardener, and American Cottage Gardens made an impact.  I started collecting old roses.

In September, I only read one book, A Blunt Instrument, a quick and easy mystery by Georgette Heyer.

Karen came all the way from Ithaca to visit me.  We had been a happy couple for a brief while in 1980.  When Mount Saint Helens blew, she was so afraid that the west coast would fall into the sea that she moved back to Ithaca.  1990 was the last year I saw her. We still write to each other at Christmas.


At the end of the year, my reading picked up again although to nothing as many as previous years.  I discovered Angela Thirkell.  I liked her books but not enough to pursue many more of them. December featured gardening books.  I am sure that I read The Year in Bloom by Ann Lovejoy in 1988 and forgot to write it down.  Now I had the sequel, The Border in Bloom.  I discovered Allen Lacy with The Garden in Autumn, a book that has continued to inspire me over the years. I have all those books along with The Little Bulbs on the shelf in front of me.

me, autumn 1990, in a garden mirror

The last book of the year was a thriller called The Beast Must Die, by Nicholas Blake.  I rated in highly.  I’d like to re-read it.  So many of the books I read over 20 years ago are not in our library system, and they will only accept so many interlibrary loans at a time.

In December, Seattle had an unusally big snow storm.  The memory I wrote about it has a denouement that still amuses me:

A massive snow storm resulted in me walking home all the way from a Capitol Hill housecleaning job with snow over my shoes. My client, Beth Loftus, came home early from work with her car stuck a mile from her house; she advised me to head home immediately. I had an appointment at Country Doctor for a fever and ear infection and had to beg them to see me as they were closing early. They did, and advised “Don’t get your ear cold!” Off I went, and the wind blew icy snow into my face, and the articulated buses were sprawled helplessly all over the roads. I stopped in the U. District and rang the bell at the apartment building of Bryan’s old friend Megan, but she was still at work. So I trudged on through Wallingford to Aurora and on home. By the time I got to the door, my hands were so cold I could not hold my key, and loud music kept Carol and Wilum from hearing my knock. Finally I managed to open the door, feeling like I had barely survived a huge adventure. The next morning, Carol and I walked up to Mae’s Cafe (me with my cold ear!) and the wind chill was, she said, like the Montana of her childhood. I had never felt such cold. My feeling of survival was somewhat deflated when I spoke to my seventy year old friend, Pat, retired teacher and basket-maker who lived nearby, and she told me matter-of-factly that she too had walked home from Northwest Harvest on Capitol Hill during the same storm.
I have a post right here of all my garden photos from 1990.

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reading in 1989

reading and life, 1989

Chris and I began 1989 in the UK, finishing up a three and a half week Christmas trip to see his parents, Yorkshire, glorious Whitby, Oxford, and London.  We had experienced considerable stress, not being good at traveling together as it turned out.  If you look at the blog posts, you’ll see him usually walking well ahead of me out of exasperation at the amount of time I spent taking photos.

I lugged home a case full of British gardening books.  One thing Chris and I did agree on was stopping at used bookstores.  If only I could have carried more.

A gift from Chris’s parents was the suggestion from his mother that I read Miss Read.  Chris’s mother described Miss Read as “rather twee”.  I immediately loved her books and began to read them all, out of order because I was finding them at used bookstores.  I may have brought some back with me.  (Also read the autobiography of Patrick Macnee because I loved The Avengers.  Bryan and I had used to have a Saturday night potluck with friends just to watch it.  When I had facilitated a marriage by running a personal ad for one of Bryan’s friends, it had included The Avengers as an interest.  When the marriage produced a child, they named her Emma.)

The Thrush Green series is my favourite of the Miss Reads, closely followed by the Village series.  Howards of Caxley and The Market Square are a stand alone duo set further in the past (and so good!)

Remember, the screen shots are in reverse order and you can click to biggify.

Margaret Atwood came out with Cat’s Eye, a favourite of mine.  Ann McCaffrey produced a new Dragonriders book which I liked. Ian McEwan, Ruth Rendell and Patricia Highsmith and Lee Smith continued to be beloveds of mine.  Also Iain Banks, although he lost me later when he started writing science fiction. I was still reading George RR Martin because of the Beauty and the Beast television series.

I started The Provincial Lady series by E.M. Delafield and read my first Gertrude Jekyll gardening book.

I discovered Sue Grafton!  Hers is one series that I read in order.  I am still reeling that she died in December 2017 before she could write Z is for Zero.

Some of the gardening books I brought back from the UK are so obscure that I had to add them to Goodreads:  Outlines of a Small Garden and Colour Hedges.  

The Lord Won’t Mind and Forth Into Light are two of a WWII era gay trilogy set in the UK.

Marlys Millhiser wrote The Mirror, which I liked so much I’d read anything by her.  I can’t recall if I liked Willing Hostage. I had a little notebook with favourite authors, and which books I already had by them, that I would carry into a any used book shop.

Below: I discovered Ann Tyler and soon went on a reading spree.

Plants for Problem Places was a book I frequently referred to over all the years till internet searches came along.  I delightedly discovered Christopher Lloyd’s gardening books.

The self help book in this batch says I was looking for something. A different road?

I love old fashioned and sweet Elizabeth Goudge and re-read two of her books.

I remember reading the George RR Martin series, Wild Cards, was kind of a hard slog.

By summer, I had created a beautiful garden.  Bryan helped by building me a solid fence to give privacy from the back alley.

Bryan building my fence and cutting a wavy top.

I grew a patch of sunflowers:

I was getting ever more annoyed that while Chris would always want me to listen to the latest poem, song, or story he had written, and while I accompanied him to spoken word and open mike nights where he would read or sing, he showed almost no interest in my transitory art of making a garden.  The passion flower in the lower right of the photo below led to an ultimatum; when he had no desire to even come have a look at the thrilling moment when it had finally bloomed, I told him I was not going to read another thing he had written until he took some interest in my art. I asked him how happy he was in the relationship on a scale of 1-10 and he said an 8, and I believe he was rather surprised when I said my number was about a 2.

He tried to show an interest after that, and installed this window in the fence:

We did not see each other much over the late summer because he had taken on an evening job, and was sometimes out of town for work.  I was loving the solitude and evenings to myself.  (Wilum was still living with us but also worked evenings and was the most unobtrusive housemate imaginable.)

I visited my friend Barbara, who had moved to Eugene, and we went to the beach (photos here) and had some long talks about what I was going to do.  Oh, Barbara.  I met her in a self help workshop about breaking up, in ’87, post-heartbreak, and we had become fast friends.  Here’s a photo of us from her birthday, August 1987.

What a darling she was. We lost touch in the mid 90s.

Meanwhile I had plenty of time at home for reading.  I read the Aaron Elkins mysteries, and discovered Tony Hillerman’s mysteries on Bryan’s recommendation.

Ann Tyler may have imparted some relationship wisdom, and when I discovered Fay Weldon, she may have imparted some fierceness and cynicism.

In the fall, Bryan and his mom, Louise, harvest the pears from my Bartlett pear tree.

Below: Replay by Ken Grimwood is a scintillating science fiction (or fantasy) novel about a man who relives his life over and over.  After the horrible personal time that Chris and I had had in England, I had thought about it for a few months and then started going out to lunch sometimes with heartbreaker P from ’87.  He’d been calling and asking now and then for a year. Even though our renewed friendship was just occasional and purely platonic, I thought about the Replay plot sometimes and about things I could have done differently if I had another go.

More Christopher Lloyd and a gardening classic, The Purest of Pleasures.

Goodreads told me today that The Home by Penelope Mortimer (a favourite author) is sort of a sequel to The Pumpkin Eaters, which I read in the 70s.  Now I must read both again.

I tried a Sara Peretsky and did not like it.  I indulged in some comfort reading with the good old Beany Malone series.   This was the third time I had read it (or part of it).  I think I know why I love that old fashioned 1950s series so much.  There was a part of me that, in another life, would have liked to settle down with one person and eventually have a 50th year anniversary.

I learned today that The Fifth Child by Doris Lessing has a sequel…so now I must read both.

In the late fall, Chris quit the evening job, said he wanted our marriage to be better, and that he would work on it.  He started trying harder than I was.

I was reading a mix of favourite authors: Fay Weldon, although I eventually found her too brittle, PG Wodehouse, Joan Aiken, Margaret Drabble,  and some books I don’t remember.  I discovered John Sherwood’s light and fun gardening mystery series.

A new Dick Francis, a new Joseph Hansen (not Dave Brandstetter though, sadly), and a new Iris Murdoch came in December.  And yet another of those pesky Dragonriders books.

Toward the very end of the year, Chris and I had been to marriage counseling to not much avail.  I felt like the counselor saw no hope for us.  Looking back, I believe Chris was really trying to change and I was not appreciative of that.  Suddenly, Heartbreaker P from ’87 thought he and I should reunite and turned on the romance.  To my regret now, I fell for what my mother would have called a “snow job”. Fooled me twice… Although our brief reunion lasted only into very early 1990, it brought the end of Chris and I.  I used to think the blame for the end of our marriage was about 50-50.  Now I feel I should claim considerably more of it.

If I thought that the result of unwillingly carrying a torch for two and a half years was going to be a Georgette Heyer result, I definitely ended up with more of a sad Iris Murdoch story.  Although as I said before, it could be worse, it could have been a Patricia Highsmith or Ruth Rendell ending. (Ruth Rendell was so noted for her grim and sad endings that it was a shock to me when I eventually read one book by her that had lovers happily reunited at the end.)

I asked P why in the world he had decided to wreak such havoc when his intentions had been deliberately impermanent.  He said that he did not like Chris, wanted to bring that relationship to and end, and had therefore done me a favour.  In the long run, I think maybe he did both Chris and I a favour.  Chris remarried, had a child, and became a successful writer.  I ended up at the beach in a gardening career that might otherwise have never happened.

By early 1990, any semblance of friendship with P was permanently done. I managed to cast off much of the sadness and not sink back into the pit of despair of ’87. Sometime shortly after Chris moved out, in early January 1990, I was standing at a bus stop waiting to go to work.  Chris had often given me rides to work so you’d think I’d be depressed to be back on the bus. Instead, I felt a memorable joy that I was free again.  I remember that moment so strongly 28 years later.

The last book I read in 1989 was Miss Manners’ Guide for the Turn of the Millennium.

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reading in 1988

1988: the biggest reading year 

It was the biggest reading year since I started keeping my book list.  I might have read more horse story books during a childhood year.  Chris and I were competitive about reading.

Click on the screenshots to embiggen the covers. My reading began with some Cat Who mysteries.  Nowadays, I tell people I did not like this series at all, and yet back then…I gave them a star on my book list.

Below: The screenshots are in reverse order.  So I went on with some more Cat Whos.  I gave the book 79 Squares two stars (meaning I loved it very much).  I remember nothing.  Goodreads tells me it is about an old man and a garden, and so I have put in an interlibrary loan.

Madeleine ‘Wrinkle in Time‘ L’Engle is a favourite children’s writer.  For some reason, I picked Arm of the Starfish to re-read; I also re-read one of the glorious Green Knowe children’s fantasy series, probably because I found them in a used book store.

I discovered novelist Meg Wolitzer and would eventually go on to enjoy all her books. Charlotte Sometimes by Penelope Farmer got a “loved it” star.

I found another excellent Iain “Wasp Factory” Banks books to read, and another beloved Blandings by Wodehouse.  I re-read Joan Aiken’s The Crystal Crow and Foul Matter in the proper order (like that); they are loosely connected.  Foul Matter was one of my favourite novels.

In late January, Chris and I went to Cincinnati.  You can see some photos of that trip here.

Thom, Chris’ playwright friend, recommended to me that I read Lee Smith.  I had never had the slightest desire to read “Southern Fiction” but since he offered me a paperback, I gave her a try.  She is wonderful.  I read at least one of her novels, maybe two, while we were visiting, and more when we got home.  (With Chris, it was acceptable to read in company.)

Below, the books are in reverse order.  At a wonderful used bookstore, I found some old books by E.M. Delafield, a writer quite obscure except for her Provincial Lady series.  I look back in regret that I only bought three of her old hardbacks.  They are hard to find.  I’ve gotten a few through interlibrary loan, and there are still some I have not read.

My most darling Iris Murdoch had a new book for me to read.  I read a series about a young fellow named Pennington and apparently enjoyed it, and I re-read a favourite book, Linnets and Valerians, by Elizabeth Goudge.  (I recently bought a copy to re-read soon.)  I read a book by Dodie “I Capture the Castle” Smith and I am sure it must have been good.

In Cincinnati. I also must have found the very old book Gardens in Color.  My garden was a disaster.  I had been in so much emotional lovelorn distress in the summer of 87 that, during a long drought, I was unable to get off my couch of tears to water the garden, and some of my grandma’s shrubs (an azalea and more) completely died.  I did not know what to do in spring of ’88 other than weed and remove the dead plants.  Back then, I mostly grew tomatoes, lettuce, green onions, and potatoes, and just maintained what shrubs, trees, and roses my grandma had once planted.

Below: More Cat Whos and Martha Grimes, both of which I remember not being great.  An memoir (apparently) of a Keith Waterhouse, about which I can find nothing, except that he wrote the fairly well known Northern England novel Billy Liar, which I also read at Chris’s suggestion.  (Chris was from Leeds.)  We influenced each other’s reading, or at least he influenced mine.

I found two Walter Tevis books to read.  If you like chess, do read The Queen’s Gambit.  I remember loving it.  I own it and I think Allan, who liked chess, should read it.

Dick Francis provided a new book!

I added Carson McCullers to my Southern reading.

I hated Less Than Zero; Chris liked it.  I wanted to love Oranges are the Only Fruit but only liked it.

Chris and I got married in March, at the Two Bells Tavern.  (We hung out there, and he had presented a play there that he had written called Map of the World.)  Wilum was the matron of honor, and the officiant was the pastor of the Metropolitan Community Church, who had very responsibly made us have a couple of counseling sessions with him first to make sure he thought the marriage would work.

flowers from a florist and my garden

I was always proud of myself at that time that I remained friends with most of my exes, and a number of them even from way past were at the wedding: among them Maridee, Carol, the young Joey Ramone look-alike from autumn 87, Mark from the Palouse, and Bryan.

Maridee and Bryan at the wedding

P, the heartbreaker from ’87, with whom I had remained friends in a sort of tormented way, told me shortly after the wedding that he had left town that weekend; he said “I couldn’t stand to watch you get married.”  I found THAT interesting indeed.  I had an intense Georgette Heyer-ish moment after the ceremony, when Bryan hugged me and I thought suddenly, “I married the wrong one!”  Or maybe that moment would belong to a more serious writer of domestic drama.  Georgette would have had us figure this out JUST in time before the wedding (and so would a Bollywood movie).  If Ruth Rendell had written the story, someone might have died.

It was not long after that that Chris asked me to stop being friends with P.  In an unusually tractable way, I agreed, probably because it was still difficult for me.

We went on with our reading.  Some I don’t remember at all, not surprising after 30 years.  Maybe it is more surprising how many I do remember.

I loved all by Carson McCullers and Ian McEwan and Margaret Drabble.  And the Band Played On was a rare to me and excellent non fiction, and because I loved Dick Francis, I read his book about jockey Lester Piggot.  Scott Spencer wrote Endless Love, which is actually good, and is probably why I read Waking the Dead.

A Fatal Inversion by Barbara Vine (Ruth Rendell) became one of my favourite books.

I remember Surprising Myself as a good gay novel, and it must have made an impression because I still own it.

I long to find a copy of 35 cent Thrills by Joyce “The Blue Chair” Thompson.  One of the stories MAY have a quotation that I love that goes something like this: Restaurants, I love restaurants.  To eat in one is not nearly as important as just to be in one.  We are all projectiles (?) in lightless, airless space, hurtling from restaurant to restaurant.  My copy of the book disintegrated or was destroyed by a cat, or dampness.

Chris suggested two good Southern books by Clyde Edgerton, Raney and Walking Across Egypt.  Chris liked author William Boyd.  I found I could not stand him (Boyd, that is).

I read a science fiction by a favourite, Alfred Bester.  Science fiction or fantasy were rare for me now.

I tried an Edna O Brien (Girls in Their Married Bliss) and while you would think I’d love it, I did not.   I was still big on Nina Bawden and Elizabeth Bowen (further down this page).

In early summer, we went on a weekend to San Juan Island, where I saw this hotel…

….and where I had a revelation in Friday Harbor, looking into someone’s garden and seeing old fashioned cottage garden with bachelor buttons and probably cosmos.  In a café, I saw this bouquet:

From then on, I thought of it as That Bouquet, the one that changed my life by inspiring me to be a real gardener.  I still did not know quite how to begin.

Room at the Top and Life at the Top, novels of Northern England, must have been suggested by Chris.  I discovered the hilarious gay novelist Stephen McCauley.  Chris suggested the great Three Men in a Boat.  

I discovered that Georgette Heyer had also written mysteries and also began the excellent mystery series by Robert Campbell; the book that says no image available was his 600 Pound Gorilla.

I re-read  books from childhood, two one of the Beany Malone series that I still dote on, and The Twenty-One Balloons which made a big impression on me as a child, and Squib, part of the Harriet the Spy series.  I gave two stars (LOVE) to Brother of the More Famous Jack, of which I have no memory.

In the late summer, I had wrenched my back at work (still housecleaning) and was barely hobbling, but I was determined to go to the Tilth harvest fair to hear a speech by Ann Lovejoy.  I had been reading her gardening columns in the Seattle Weekly.  Chris accompanied me, and I have a memory that perhaps another friend was there.  That was the day I became garden-obsessed.  Thank you, Ann.  You can read more about Ann’s talk (and That Bouquet) here.

I finally began to read gardening books, starting with Green Thoughts.  Rather cosmically, that is a book that was given to me in 2017 and that I intend to soon re-read.  I read Onward and Upward in the Garden for the third time.  I think that up til 1998, it was the ONLY gardening book I had read, probably because of Katharine S White’s connection to the New Yorker.

I also discovered Tony Hillerman.  As usual, I was reading books that I acquired used, so I did not read his mystery series in strict order.


Here at the New Yorker was most enjoyable.  I still own it.  I subscribed to the New Yorker at that time.

I know I should have liked The Great Gatsby better than I did.  I discovered mystery writer Jan Van der Wetering and read through a series by him, of which I remember nothing.

Such a Pretty Face: Being Fat in America…I recommend it. Here is the description from Goodreads:  “Despite this obsession with weight control, there is little serious discussion of the deeper meaning of obesity. In a way, obesity is as powerful a taboo as sexuality was for the Victorians.
This book argues that the effort to lose weight should be secondary to an understanding of the mythology of fat. Being fat is seen as much more than a physical condition. Fat women are stereotypically viewed as unfeminine, either in flight from sexuality or sexual in some forbidden way, intentionally antisocial, out of control, hostile, aggressive.
Using case studies, moving, sometimes painful, autobiographical accounts, and observing such organizations as a fat rights society, Overeaters Anonymous, and a children’s diet camp, Marcia Millman reveals how people live with the burden of these stereotypes and explores the truth or falsity of them. This book proves the humanness, the defiance, vulnerability, self-doubt, courage, and even the beauty of those who violate our arbitrary standards of physical beauty. It sees them as whole people, to whom attention must be paid.

Below, the end of the year’s reading.  I read the science fiction book by George RR Martin because of living his fantasy television show, Beauty and the Beast.  A Very Private Eye by Barbara Pym presages my love of memoirs.

A new Dick Francis and a new Ruth Rendell, and the last book of the year was a brilliant Ruth Rendell/Barbara Vine, House of Stairs.

Out of 153 books, it looks like 14 were non fiction (some about gardening, and one which I do not recommend: Rock Wives.)  That is a non fiction increase from previous years.

In December, Chris and I went to the UK for Christmas with his parents.  You can read about that trip starting here.

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reading in 1987

life and books in 1987:

There’s more “life” in this book post because it was that kind of year.

I started out the year reading as much as usual: Patricia Highsmith, Ruth Rendell, Joseph Hansen.

In February, I met a man through the Weekly personals and fell madly in love.  I’ll just call him P.

me, infatuated

I could, but won’t, share an accompanying photo of P looking equally infatuated.

At this time, I finally ended my lingering and low-key romance with Bryan; we had been drifting along indecisively.  We remained good friends for many years. Looking back in time, it would have been a good moment for me to remember that there is no man to compare to a man who reads Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer, but I seem to have been looking for more excitement.  P. was a non reader, except for one book that he read shortly after we met, which he said was the only book he’d read in years.  He worked as a proofreader at an advertising shop, and said he read enough at work.

The first six weeks were ecstatic, and after that it all went downhill slowly and then rapidly. We were going to live together, marriage was mentioned, then it was not.  We had the same birthday; I turned 32 in March, and he was 30.

In late March, we went to Tucson, where P had a dream of relocating and opening a bar.

Here we are in Mesa, AZ, visiting my parents for a half day at their winter home (in the Good Life Travel Trailer Court)

I do have a blog post with the photos from that trip.

I was reading Barbara Pym for the first time.  The books come out in reverse order, so looking at the bottom of the screen shot below, you can see that I also read the one book that P had read: Neuromancer, maybe the original cyberpunk novel.  I didn’t like it (but didn’t say so).  I wonder if Barbara Pym’s insights helped me to realize that I was so very much not happy.

On the week long trip to Arizona, we stayed with P’s two brothers.  Instead of being social I spent some of my time there re-reading the Tales of the City series.  That was rather rude and I am sure did not make the best impression.  (But one of his brothers liked to go to what he called “titty bars”, and I did not feel entirely at home like I had with Bryan’s liberal family.)

I recall that I liked science fiction writer Margaret St Clair back in the 70s, so I read a book of her short stores.  Tried a J.A. Jance, did not much like it.

At the end of May, I found the fortitude to end the relationship.

By July, I was so depressed and that I sought help.

A counsellor suggested that I read Rebuilding and Creative Visualization.  What I remember from the latter is putting your troubles into a pink bubble and letting them float away.

I did not read much over the summer because I was also somewhat zombified by anti depressants.  In late August, I stopped the anti depressants and was able to read again.

I don’t remember the mysteries, below, by William Marshall, even though I gave them each a star on my reading list.

Looking back now, I think it ironic that shortly after the break up I read Those Who Walk Away (which I did) and A Taste For Death (I was VERY depressed).  I also gave a star to the unremembered Kill Fee.




I do not know what about that three month long relationship had such a powerful effect, but it took me years to get over it.  I still have dreams about it at least three times a year….thirty years later.  I would like to understand this and will probably go to my grave mystified.

All this time, I was cleaning houses full time.

a photo of me at a cleaning job, summer 87

me and Wilum, summer 87

Allan, who lived in Tacoma but worked in Seattle sometimes, used to meet me once a week after work and after my gym sessions and run around Green Lake with me.  I was an obsessive exerciser.  He took this photo:


I remember taking long rides on his motorcycle and going with him to a Donovan concert.  This was all purely platonic; he was married and at the end of that summer his daughter was born.

Back to the books: By September, I was reading steadily again.

Eclipse: a Nightmare is the autobiography of a man who is made blind in an attack, and how he recovers his life.  I might have reread it because blindness is a big fear of mine.  (Non fiction count for the year: three.)

I think The Fur Person was the first May Sarton I ever read.  The Wasp Factory was recommended to me by a friend; it is excellent.  From Goodreads: “Never Come Back is a gripping thriller from 1941, the only novel by John Mair, who was killed in an RAF training accident only six months after it was published.”

Ruth Rendell was my mainstay in 1987.

I have a couple more blog posts from that difficult year:

autumn in the Palouse

houseboat tours 

Just before Halloween, I met Chris through a personal ad.  He was British (a resident alien) and a would-be writer (who has now become a celebrated published writer).  I have written down on that year’s book list that I read a book by him called “The Great Man” in manuscript form.  We were smitten and by Christmas he was living with me and Wilum.

Chris and I out on the town for Halloween (as Sid and Nancy).

continuity: Thanksgiving dinner with Chris and Bryan at Bryan’s parents house

The December books of 1987:

I did not much like Dupe by Liza Cody, but later I would find another series by her to love.  The Mirror by Maryls Millhauser sticks in my mind as a good occult thriller.  I don’t remember The Crying Heart Tattoo although I gave it a star at the time.  The last books I read in 1987 were three Cat Who books.  I remember disliking that series (I don’t like cats to be crime solvers), and yet I started 1988 by reading a few more.

Chris was a voracious reader, and the following year was my highest book count ever.  I think we were in competition to see who could read the most.

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